How to Overcome Depression Naturally

Depression is something I have struggled with since I had my first-born in 2007. I used to be embarrassed about it and wonder if there was something wrong with me; now I know it's just a part of my structure, personality type, and how my brain responds to stressful or mundane times. That doesn't mean I have to be the victim, allowing it to take over stretches of my life. It used to, but I know now that I have the power and the control to fight it, and end it. 

Fighting off depression is so difficult, I think especially because it requires energy and that is something a depressed person has none of. The fact is that there are hard things in life, and with depression it comes down to this:

Are you going to let this press the pause button on your life?

Or are you going to fight back and take control?

Depression isn't a choice, but what you do about it is.

Over the last nine years, I have discovered some things that can combat depression without medicine [although I did go down the medicinal path when I had post-partum]. With consistency, I ward off the blues every time now. 

Do something different.

I have found that my habits play a big role in how I'm doing as a person. When I do the same thing day in and day out for too long, I find myself in a slump. I start to lose excitement for my days, I feel tired and sluggish, I lose interest, I get lazy. I've had a new habit totally change my life. Little things like taking a walk once a day, listening to a podcast while I fold the laundry, or waking up earlier have impacted my spirit. Sometimes you just have to make a change and find something that adds joy to your days. 

Get outside.

Creation holds power, and I don't mean that in a strange way, I mean God created it and it reflects Him; it has the power to influence us and make us feel things. When you step outside of your bubble and get outside, scientifically, you feel better. Did you know that almost everyone walking around is low on vitamin D? A lack of vitamin D plays a big part in depression, and guess where we get it- sunlight. For me, getting outside once a day is probably the biggest cure for depression. I just let the kids dress themselves and wander to the park across the street with some water or coffee and my headphones. I walk slowly back and forth while I listen to an inspiring podcast or some good music and let the kids burn some energy. Get outside and make a very simple difference. 

Change your diet.

There are things we eat on a meal-to-meal basis that we were not designed to eat. Food is medicine, and "you are what you eat" is truer than most people would like to admit. Gluten is linked to depression, and gluten is in everything. Try eating paleo, as it is a clean diet that has a tremendous impact on how you feel.

Stop sitting and start moving.

Do you know about the effects sitting has on our bodies?

God designed us to be extremely active and almost constantly hard-working, and here we are sitting 10+ hours a day! It's not good for us, and standing up is a great, simple way to start fighting back against depression. Consider a standing desk and standing mat, start walking in the mornings, take a Zumba class, get up and lunge every hour if you work in an office, if you're a stay-at-home mom, make a rule that you won't sit down until dinnertime. Make the choice to educate yourself and work against the downward pull you're experiencing in your life right now. Say no to excuses.

Go the homeopathic way.

There are some excellent sources for curing our ailments- physical, mental, and emotional- with what God put in the soil of our planet. I always tell people to research for themselves, because something might jump out at you that you feel will work best. However, things like St. John's Wart, essential oils, increasing the healthy fats in my diet, and drinking a gallon of water a day for a month have helped me so much in the past. 

Get more sleep at night.

I know that pull to take naps during the day when you're depressed, and I'm not talking about that. You need to go to bed earlier at night. I also know that sometimes depression comes with insomnia, but just take that first step of getting into bed early. Say no to Netflix, pull out a book, turn off the super bright lighting, and breathe. Don't stress about falling asleep or getting 8+ hours; just relax and fall asleep when you fall asleep, and get into this habit every night. I have found that eventually, especially when coupled with rising early, I start to actually fall asleep soon after I climb into bed. Sleep cures a multitude of issues, and depression is high on that list. 

Get really busy.

This isn't for you if you're one of those people whose calendars are full to the brim almost daily. Your schedule might be the reason you're feeling down [in fact, if you are too busy you might need to clear your schedule for a bit and take this advice in the opposite direction]. But, if you're like me- a stay-at-home mom with my own schedule, you might be struggling with depression because you've got too much time serving your family at home and not enough time getting out and doing things with other people. I know getting out of the house with little kids is exhausting, but it can help. Join a Bible study, moms group or book club, sign up for a gym class, get involved in your church, get yourself in some sort of school organization for parents or join a homeschool co-op, plan some play dates, get on MeetUp and make some new friends or take up a new hobby like hiking, sign up for a 5k and start training. Just get some things on your calendar and make a rule- no canceling. 

Talk to someone. 

Walking depression alone seems logical to avoid judgement, but it's the worst thing you can do. Telling someone keeps you from staying isolated, and sometimes talking it out even helps you see something that's causing your struggle that you hadn't realized before. Choose a trustworthy friend, or your husband, and tell them what's up. Ask them to check in on you once a day. 

Pick up your Bible.

I think when you're depressed it's easy to feel guilty for it, and when we feel guilty or shameful we tend to stray from the Lord. This isn't the time to skip your quiet time, in fact you need it now more than ever. God can handle your emotions, He can handle your heart, He can handle your struggles. He wants them! So go sit with some coffee and your Bible and just start reading. Download a She Reads Truth plan. 

if you feel like you need to, but don't let all those excuses get in the way of the one true Cure for our desperation. Remember Peter trying to walk on the water? Once he took his eyes off Jesus, he went under. 

Depression is not a small struggle, it's a serious and crippling sickness, and my heart goes out to you if you're reading this and relating.

I am always available to talk and pray, and if nothing else, take comfort in knowing that someone else gets it, and has been there but overcome. 

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear I will help you". 

Isaiah 41:13

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Depression + Motherhood

If you've been around my blog for awhile, you probably know that I struggle with depression. Today I want to really open up and talk about it, in hopes that it will raise awareness and help somebody. Depression and motherhood are common acquaintances, and not enough people are talking about it openly.

At the end of my first pregnancy, I began to feel "off". I was sad, uninterested in the things that I normally loved, and I couldn't figure out what exactly it was or why I felt that way. After Bella was born, I fell into severe post-partum depression (PPD), which lasted for about 18 months. My case was a bad one. I physically could not get myself out of bed. I am not a person who enjoys relying on others; I'm a go-getter, an I-got-this kind of person, and I normally enjoy waking up and getting out and being productive. I felt my depression physically, it was so bad. It felt like I had black clouds stuck in my head and pressing down on my chest, causing severe fatigue and a feeling of hopelessness. I had no natural motherly insincts. It was like they wouldn't stick to me because I was so immersed in depression. When Bella would cry, I felt nothing. Not anger or irritation, not sadness or sympathy... just nothing. My baby's cry had no affect on me, and neither did her cooing, her laughter, her growth. I was lifeless. When I watch videos of myself at that time, I can't help but cry. I wish I could reach out to that girl and take away her pain. I was so confused by what was happening to me.

We lived with my parents at the time, and my mom and husband both saw there was something very wrong, but didn't know what or why or what to do. When they tried to talk to me about it or help me, that's when the only emotion I sometimes felt would come out- anger. I got a prescription for an anti-depressant from a doctor but I didn't want to accept that kind of help. I was scared of what the drug might do to me, and I didn't want to become a robot. I didn't take the meds and the depression held on until about fifteen months after Bella was born. The clouds lifted a little, and I became pregnant again. I believe the hormonal changes in my body caused my serotonin (the happy hormone your brain produces) levels to boost, and I felt the depression had passed completely around eighteen months after it began.

The hardest part of this part of my life is that my depression was so deep and debilitating, that as I look back, there are blank spaces in my brain, and I have no memories of my baby girl during her first year of life. When I look at photos or watch her baby videos that I am in, it freaks me out because I do not remember being there at all. PPD took over my body, my mind, and my life, and it robbed me of the most precious memories that should have been mine to remember the rest of my life.

 When my second child, Leland was born, PPD hit me again. I panicked at the thought of losing my bond with my son and my memories. I went right away and got medicine, which helped get my serotonin level where it needed to be in six months' time, at which point I weaned off the medicine. The important thing to note here is the type of depression. For me, this was not the "baby blues". It was an extreme, life-altering, deep depression that was ruining my life and my family. It was not a situational depression (brought on by difficult circumstances). It was a chemical imbalance that needed to be treated just the same as if I had diabetes.

I did not have PPD at all after my third baby, Hudson was born. It's funny because there was so much bad going on in my life that I think I should have struggled with depression, but I had absolutely none. This confirms even more that what I experienced before was an imbalance that I could do nothing about without medical help.

Although I didn't struggle with PPD after my last birth, since I became a mom, I have battled on and off with depression (situational depression and depressive "lulls", not the same thing as PPD). Having gone through so much and experienced both, I can tell when what I'm struggling with is a lull, and when I have a chemical imbalance that requires medical help. I hadn't really had more than a bad week for three years until a couple months ago. I woke up one morning and could feel the difference. I didn't want to get out of bed, hopelessness seemed to have settled over me overnight, and I felt fear get me. I was depressed. Again. For those who haven't struggled in the past and are unclear about depression, it is very real, it isn't an excuse to be lazy, it isn't a thing of the imagination, it can become physically painful, and it does not mean you are being punished for something wrong you did. I have heard all these things said to me, and I will not tolerate any such comments, let me be clear on that.

For me, depression looks like this:
Lack of interest in things I normally love, like reading, Zumba class, being outside, writing, going out to dinner, etc.
It's usually accompanied by anxiety.
Daily tasks feel as daunting as climbing a mountain. Seriously. Getting off the couch to switch the laundry feels completely overwhelming. Showering, doing my makeup, and getting dressed for the day doesn't happen.
Avoiding family and friends.
Binging on junk food.
Just not caring in general, about anything.
Snapping at my kids a lot more than just the usual end-of-the-day burn out.
Feeling really unhappy and irritated with my life or my day.

In contrast, for me, a lull is just a bad day or maybe a bad week, where some of the things I listed above come into play and I am not myself. A lull comes from getting overwhelmed, giving in to my tendency of laziness for more than one day, not spending time with the Lord, not getting out of the house much, a difficult time in my marriage, or not taking care of myself (health, and emotions). A lull goes away quickly and pretty easily. Depression lingers and is very heavy, but can still be overcome.

It is so easy to brush off the signs of depression and ignore it, but it's a serious thing that will be helped by accepting the problem and prayerfully seeking treatment- whether that means you need medicine to balance yourself, or you just need to make yourself better through personal changes. Today I really just wanted to clarify what depression usually looks like and also clearly explain the differences between a lull in the daily grind and serious depression. If you feel you may be depressed, please feel free to email me with any further questions you might have!

 

Depression + Redemption {the story of bella & i}

Pin this and help other mamas find encouragement. 

Pin this and help other mamas find encouragement. 

I've shared a lot with you about my experience with post-partum depression (PPD). But today, I want to bust open this little-discussed issue and share it all.

My depression came after my first child, my daughter was born. It actually started to seep in at the very end of my pregnancy, then spiraled out of control a couple of months after her arrival. I've said before that it was such a dark time, my memory has literally been almost completely erased. I can't picture my baby's face, I don't remember her first anything. I wasn't mentally or emotionally there for it. I wasn't even physically there for some of it. I did not get out of bed except when forced for several months, and my personality had seemingly left me.

Of course, that special time of bonding and connecting with my baby was lost. I did not have a natural motherly response when she cried, I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding her and I really didn't care, so I let her go to formula pretty quickly, I had feelings of jealousy toward her when my husband would care for her while I felt that I myself was suffering. You may have a wall up right now. You may judge and ridicule me or blame some big sin I must've committed to bring this on. That's okay. If you haven't been there, you simply will not understand that none of this was coming from me or my heart; it was all coming from the depression. It was unnatural, not my personality, and not at all how I had dreamed things would be after the birth of my child. This caused my depression and hopelessness to worsen.

Looking back through the eyes of prayer, knowledge, research, and healing, I know now that I was suffering from a chemical imbalance. I will never argue about whether or not the depression I suffered could have been "gotten over". I was there, and I know what it felt like to be taken over by my own mind, and I have also experienced the type of depression that I can pull myself out of. This was different. This was no choice. I wanted to enjoy my new motherhood. I wanted  to nurse and cuddle and love my baby. I wanted a connection with her. But there wasn't any of that, because I was sick. Just as you wouldn't deny yourself medicine for diabetes, I shouldn't have denied myself medicine for this mental illness. I shamed myself for even picking up that prescription. I refused to take it because of the judgement from others that would follow that decision. My grandmother had overdosed on prescription drugs her whole life, and I wasn't going to fall into that trap.

This decision cost me months of hopelessness and illness. 

It also cost me bonding time with my daughter, and years of trying to force it to happen. 

Once I came out of the darkest time, I thought everything would get back to normal and I could finally enjoy motherhood and fall into the perfect life I always wanted. We had wanted to have our children very close together, even closer than they ended up, but didn't because of the depression. When my daughter was fifteen months old and I had been better for a couple months, we tried for a second baby and I got pregnant. I quickly realized though, that things in my motherhood couldn't just "go back to normal" because there had never been a normal. I had been depressed since before Bella was even born, and only gotten worse since then. I realized I had absolutely no connection to her and didn't feel things my friends felt about their children. I even noticed that I felt a stronger connection to the tiny baby in my belly than I did my one-and-a-half-year-old, flesh and blood child.

The depression had stolen something from me, and I hadn't known until now because I hadn't had anything to compare my relationship with Bella to.

Something was missing. 

I started going to a moms group through my church, where I met a mentor and friend who taught me how to pray in the Spirit- something I hadn't really applied to my life before. I began using this lesson in prayer toward my relationship with Bella. The Lord moved and showed me where healing needed to take place. Things got better, but our relationship felt forced to me. I spent two years in despair and denial, thinking that I had missed my chance at a normal, healthy relationship with my baby girl.

Today, my daughter is four-and-a-half and we have a good relationship. She talks to me about her day and her thoughts, feels close to me, and I feel close to her. I no longer feel a wedge between us. God is good, and He heals.

There are some things I did to help myself through this issue that I want to share today for anyone who has suffered PPD or simply feels that they need a stronger connection to one or more of their children.

First, I took control of my thoughts. Basing my decisions on the Bible gave me power over the enemy's hold on my mind and my relationship with my daughter. When I would think something like. why does she have to be like that? Why can't she just be normal?

I would take it into captivity as soon as I realized what was happening. I would mentally say NO to that thought and throw it away. I would replace it with a verbal uplifting comment like, "Wow sweetie, you are really good at acting like a dog! You look just like Mimi's puppy!" Doing this was the most powerful action in changing my damaged heart toward my little girl.

Your emotions always follow your thoughts.

Another thing I did was to physically touch her more often. Touch is not my love language, in fact it irritates me sometimes, so this was tough and had to come out of selflessness and a desire to bring change. When watching a movie, I would invite Bella into my lap. When sitting down for dinner I would invite her to sit in the chair closest to me. When walking to the mailbox I would take her hand in mine. When standing in line at the grocery store I would rub her back. I still do these things, but they're more natural to me now. This made her see that I was being different and opening up to her. It made her drawn to me and brought closeness.

The third most powerful thing I did was prayer. I prayed over our relationship, I prayed for her, I prayed against future depression, I prayed with her. Just lots and lots of prayer covering me, her, our lives, and our family. God works on our hearts through prayer!

If you have suffered severe PPD and feel a disconnect between you and your child, please know first and foremost that it is normal.

I won't get into detail here about the medicine debate, but please feel welcome to message me on Facebook if you have any questions or thoughts or concerns about yourself. PPD is very real and very crippling. Don't keep yourself isolated. I am reaching out to you, take the chance to have a friend in this. I also want to clarify that this deep depression I suffered from was not completely gone until I gave birth to my second baby and felt it coming on strong again, and decided to take anti-depressants. After nine months of medication, I weaned off and never went back. I believe in the power of God and the power of prayer, but sometimes, for reasons I won't know until I see Him face-to-face, He brings a different way. Sometimes depression means your mind is sick, and can be helped by saying yes to help and medication. Don't lose years just to make a point.